Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Goulden Recess between Games 66 and 67

After a week of bungeeing out in Toad from Wales to ballparks in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island, I looked forward to two unscheduled days that Bonnie and I could spend with her friends Pam and Bill Johnson in their home in the Berkshires.  Months earlier when I had been developing possible itineraries and scheduling the anthem performances, I had bemoaned the fact that, during my stay in the area, I couldn’t coordinate my schedule with home dates for the Portland Sea Dogs in Maine or the independent minor league team close by in Pittsfield, which recently had restored one of the oldest ballparks in the country.  Yet at that time my colleague Charles Adams had cautioned me about compacting my schedule, suggesting that I’d benefit from a few days off now and then, here and there. 

Then, I had scoffed at the idea of needing a break.  Now, as I returned to the Johnson’s home in Monterey, Massachusetts, following the evening game in Troy, New York, I reveled in the prospect of a respite from daily driving and interacting at ballparks.  I lowered the windows in Toad and let the cool night air blow freshly across my forehead and through my mind, and I savored the picnic supper that Pam had packed for me a few hours earlier. Although I couldn’t see the salad in the dark while I was driving, I enjoyed feeling the texture of the lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and pepita seeds as I fingered bites to my mouth.  I followed this first course with a marinated chicken breast, amazingly moist despite having been chilled for a few hours.  And then there was fruit—sticky and delicious chunks of melons and berries.  Only recently had I met Pam and Bill, and I already thought of her as my newest friend, someone who sensed my needs and tastes.
Bill and Pam Johnson
When I entered the Johnson’s house shortly before midnight, Bonnie and Pam were catching up on their mutual interests in art and gardening and literature.  Among her many talents Pam is an accomplished fabric artist whose primary medium is quilting.  The design of two of her pieces hanging in the house rivaled award-winning quilts on exhibit at the National Quilting Museum, which we had visited si weeks earlier during our stay in western Kentucky.

Meanwhile, Bill offered me a chance to be soothed and stimulated simultaneously by listening to one of Dvorak’s symphonies on his theatrical sound system while we sipped a night-cap and shared perspectives about our professions, mine in academics and his in corporate leadership.  Initially he had served as an executive in the computing industry, and recently he had assumed the role of Executive Director of Gould Farm, a residential therapeutic community located nearby.
Tired though I was, I was enthralled by his characterization of the mission and therapy afforded by Gould Farm, which was founded a century ago to provide a radical alternative to the treatment of persons suffering from mental instability and illness.  Even more than my fascination with Bill’s enthusiastic description of the program and several of its recent successes, I sensed a moral integrity in Gould Farm’s distinct, restorative method, which offers guests (as its participants are called) an opportunity to pursue mental health by engaging in meaningful agricultural teamwork, individual counseling, respectful relationships, and a healthy diet—all in the context of a supportive community that provides ongoing encouragement and progressive levels of independence.
Bill identifies various rounds of cheeses.

Two days later Bonnie and I walked through a pasture on the 650-acres of Gould Farm, toured its dairy and cheese production facility, and saw and smelled its goats and chickens and cows.  In addition to the guests gaining familiarity with daily dairy chores, they regularly harvest sap and refine maple syrup, bake breads and pastries, and blend granola, all of which can be purchased by the public at the Farm’s Roadside Store and Café along Route 23. On our return to the Johnsons’ house we stopped there to replenish Arby’s cereal supplies with a bag of the granola, which didn’t last long.  Bonnie claimed that it was “that good.”

During much of the two days that we spent with the Johnsons, I enjoyed the freedom to write in a refreshing retreat in Bill’s study that overlooks the wooded hillside sloping down from their house to the lake. Not only was the setting spectacular, but the Internet access was uninterrupted! 

A restful spot at the Johnsons'.
Yet my writing and walking through their lush gardens and surrounding woods were interrupted when Arby begged for special attention. Because the Johnsons’ driveway is so steep and twisted, Pam had arranged for us to park Arby near a neighbor’s house.  But when we learned that workmen needed access past Arby, I went to move it and discovered a red oil leak near the right front tire.  Ugh!  Fingering the wet spill and fearing a transmission malfunction, I gingerly drove Arby to a truck repair shop in Lee, where mechanics easily and efficiently replaced the cracked hydrolytic line controlling the right front automatic leveler. 

Even the frustration of this vehicular problem could not dim the deep refreshment of our visit.  The Johnsons engaged us with stimulating conversation, inspired us with their commitments to Gould Farm, and served incredible meals.  Turning her artistic skills to the culinary medium, Pam created amazing salads with fresh produce and cheeses from Gould Farm, and she baked a delectable fig torte garnished with fresh raspberries.  I was convinced that she could compete with the Iron Chefs.  Taking on the air of one of the show's judges, I imagined myself describing the presentation and taste of her creations: “The salads blended the artistries of Brahms and Baryshnikov,” I would begin, “by permitting the béchamel sauce to lift and twist the harmonic flavors of the chilled shrimp, fresh greens, and blanched asparagus beyond two octaves.”  
Pam's elegant shrimp, asparagus, and mango salad.

Pam adds the final raspberries to the fresh fig torte.
But unlike the food judges who sit conference style at a table under floodlights, we enjoyed the ambiance of an elegant table situated on the porch beneath towering trees and set with colorful china. 
Pam and Bonnie toast friendship, our meal, and the refreshing view.
Then in preparation for our final evening meal, Bill took Bonnie to the fresh fish market in Stockbridge to pick up live lobsters, which sloshed in the bucket that Bonnie stabilized during the return drive.  I do believe that my lobster must have weighed more than three pounds, and I savored the experience for the rest of the month.
Bill serves Pam one of the lobsters.
Nourished by the Johnsons’ friendship and hospitality, Bonnie and I descended the mountain from Monterey, slowed to avoid a speed trap in Tyringham, and made our way back to Lee to access the Mass Pike and aim along the New York Thruway toward Allentown, Pennsylvania, for a double-header that night between the Syracuse Chiefs and the host Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

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